After an initial pass around the room taking in the costumes on display, our attention was drawn to a cabinet full of props. Even under ordinary circumstances it’s an interesting experience looking at props, marvelling at the detail that goes into something most viewers may not even notice. Then it got even more interesting: after agreeing to wear some rather ill-fitting cotton gloves, the archivist let us touch them.
One of the items that really grabbed our attention was Bond’s Evaluation Report the document that sits on M’s desk when she clears him to return to active duty. As we leafed through it, it became obvious that it wasn’t just a cover and blank pages, or random text, someone had taken great care to fill in every page.
And one page in particular was of real interest: Bond’s answers to a series of psychological questions. We’ll leave it for other people to debate whether these clearly are or aren’t canon (and why each answer has the name J.D. Hall in parentheses after it), they are, after all, a filler page of a screen-used prop, created by an overworked artist. What they do show, however, is the level of detail the people working on a Bond film go to to make sure everything is as believable as possible.
What’s really impressive is, far from being the exception, this level of detail is the norm, as Simmons reveals. “We have all sorts of things like that that you never see on film, but we’re aware of. In ‘Casino Royale,’ at the end, when [Bond] is going through her personal things, there’s a letter from her mother in her handbag. I’ve read that letter.”
The contents were mundane, as Simmons recalls, something along the lines of, “Your dad’s out walking the dog, Devon is very wet this time of year,” but as she points out, “But somebody has sat down and written that, and decided what kind of parents she’s going to have.”
[Spoiler ahead if you haven’t seen the film!] There was also something else that cropped up while we were looking through the archive, something that may be of even more interest to Bond fans. As we looked at the porcelain bulldog M bequeaths Bond, the archive assistant read the inscription on the box it is presented to him in – “Olivia Mansfield bequeaths James Bond.” We’ve searched around, and as far as we can see this is the first and only time anyone’s ever revealed M’s ‘real name.’ It may not have been spoken, but if you were watching on a big enough screen it could have been visible, so we’d argue it’s now canon.